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The Ladykillers

The Ladykillers on DVD

by Johnny Bray

The Ladykillers proves that even the most reliable Hollywood giants can mislead you from time to time.

Tom Hanks stars as Professor G.H. Dorr, a charming con man who rents a room with a Hollywood cliché. She’s a seemingly helpless and clueless elderly black woman, religious and old-fashioned but generally pleasant. She’s pretty easygoing, provided you watch your mouth and don’t smoke in her house.

Naturally, it seems like the ideal place for a group of criminals to head their operation. Dorr and his boys are planning a remarkable heist, and they seem to have the perfect plan, but if there wasn’t an elderly black woman to get in their way, it would be a pretty short movie. She frequently interrupts, causing the crew to have to quickly clean up and grab their instruments to keep up the charade of being a musical group.

Things progress as you’d expect, but in not as entertaining a fashion as other, better heist movies. The Coen brothers tried their best to jump on the genre bandwagon, but ultimately fell flat on their faces. To put it bluntly: I’m not a Coen brothers fan, and so was not expecting much from The Ladykillers. I was still disappointed.

The presence of Tom Hanks is usually a good sign. One of Hollywood’s biggest stars, he can generally be counted on to pick good projects. In this case, he probably just wanted a role that was different from anything he’s done before. In that regard, it works pretty well.

It’s fun to watch a great actor act, and Dorr is a great character for a great actor to play. Some may find it difficult to swallow the man in such a role, but those people need to relax and just enjoy some fine work. Or better still, not bother watching the movie in the first place.

The Coen brothers have put their stamp on the film. They take an extremely mediocre idea, add good actors, and then do everything they can to make it seem smarter than it really is.

The ending of the movie is a major letdown: abrupt and unsatisfying. After building things up to the point at which you think you know where it’s going, they completely surprise you. And I’m not talking in a good way. There’s no real twist or anything, it’s just a crappy ending.

Now before you dismiss this review as that of someone who doesn’t like the Coen brothers, it should be mentioned that I have spoken with many huge Coen fans, none of whom enjoyed this movie any more than I did. So it’s best to just ignore it altogether and watch some of your favorite Coen classics again.

Both picture and sound are good, but there’s not really much of note. Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1, color and detail are well done, with no dust or grain anywhere to be found. Separation of audio elements is nice, but the surrounds don’t really do anything at all, except emit the echo of a couple of gunshots.

“Danny Ferrington: The Man Behind the Band” is a short featurette on the man who wrote the songs featured in the movie. It’s probably a great little blurb if you enjoyed the songs featured in the movie. There are some deleted music scenes, but again, if you don’t enjoy that kind of music, you probably won’t enjoy the scenes. The best extra is a series of outtakes that is exclusively Marlon Wayans getting hit in the face by Irma P. Hall. Now that’s something everybody can enjoy! Finally, if you put the DVD into your DVD-ROM drive, you can read the script as the movie plays, but you’d have to be a pretty hardcore fan to care about that.

The Ladykillers, from Touchstone Home Entertainment
104 min. anamorphic widescreen, (1.85:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital 5.1 surround,
Starring Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, Marlon Wayans, J.K.Simmons
Produced by Ethan Coen & Joel Coen, Tom Jacosbson, Barry Sonnenfeld, and Barry Josephson
Written and directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen


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